There’s a Story Behind Every Child.


Noah and his big sister Emma

When Emma was in my preschool class we took a field trip to the Shriner’s Circus.  That was back in the day when going on a field trip did not require volunteers to carry seat belt cutters, undergo certification, pounds of paperwork and  an Act of Congress.  I dearly miss sharing new experiences with children that comes from a going on a field trip.  And the trip to the Shriner’s Circus had an unexpected moment that triggered a new pathway in my classroom.  It happened like this…

Before the circus performance the lights went out and a big American flag was lowered.  I had no idea that would happen, but no worries, I knew exactly what to do- stand tall and proud, put my hand over my heart, and sing our National Anthem.  Everybody knows that… so I thought.  I looked around and saw parents chatting away and children playing.  I was horrified!  I frantically dashed to each child, pulling off their ball caps and putting their little hands over their hearts.  I’m sure I looked like a crazy person.  Yes I was, because this was awful.

It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t know what to do when singing “The Star Spangled Banner”.  My doesn’t-everybody-know-that  frame of mind switched gears.  This was a teaching moment looking at me right in the face.  Emma to the rescue!  She was the child who knew what to do and showed pride, even at the tender age of four.

Back at school, Emma showed the other children how to sing and how to stand.  It was a start, but not nearly enough.  I asked the children, “What is a star spangled banner?”  No one knew.  How can they learn to sing with pride if they have no idea what they’re singing for?  They needed the backstory, and that is where my teaching took off: emergent curriculum at it’s best.

Emma’s Dad came to school to help the children learn about the American flag.  We learned about Francis Scott Key watching the flag during battle to see who was winning.  We began to sing other patriotic songs.  To this day, “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” are classroom favorites.  Some years ago Milly and the children made a God Bless America quilt that hangs in the Boston Fisher House.  Thank you, Emma, for starting the ball of Patriotism rolling, many years ago.

Noah was the shy one.  He had difficulty saying goodby to Mom and Dad when he arrived at school.  All the hugs and reassurances in the world did little to help Noah.  To make matters worse, he was not alone.  Another little boy had the same struggle, and the two of them together often ignited many tears.

One day I pulled out my Autoharp.  After all, music and singing are a universal pathway to the heart.  In the words of Hans Christian Anderson, “where words fail, music speaks”.  I needed words, as I was failing Noah.  No, I needed music.  And, it worked!  The tears turned to sniffles, and then they stopped.  Noah was fascinated with a real musical instrument.  We sang and sang, and then we sang some more. The Autoharp became part of our daily routine.  Noah was also curious how the strings actually worked.  We discovered high and low sounds, and then we learned about  vibration.  A tuning fork and a dish of water became a favorite science experiment, especially with Noah.

Thus began my immersion in music.  I brought real instruments into the classroom.  I brought in my old record player and record albums.  That was a huge hit, and today it still remains a classroom favorite.  When we painted seriously, preparing for our annual Art Show, we listened to classical music for inspiration.  It was wonderful, and still is to this day.  Thank you, Noah, for bringing music into my classroom.  I’m so glad it has become a part of your life.

Yes, there is a story behind each child.  And, they always come back to visit.  Noah now brings his music and instruments into the classroom.  Emma has been both a volunteer and works in the summer.  Those early beginnings have come full circle.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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40 Responses to There’s a Story Behind Every Child.

  1. Ritu says:

    How wonderful!!!! Each has child brings something to our classroom. It’s up to us to find it and enhance it!

  2. sportsattitudes says:

    Music can have such a profound impact regardless of age. It is wonderful you utilize it in class not only for music’s sake itself but also as a compliment to other activities. It has to be rewarding to experience that “full circle.”

  3. I still have tears running down my cheeks when I hear those songs. Your story brought it all back to me with fresh tears. I went to school on military bases most often and we knew what to do. There was a girl in my class once that was not allowed to sing or salute the flag because of her religion. I felt so sorry for her having to step out of the room when we all did the pledge. It was a hard life for her. They were lucky to have you as a teacher.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful story, Marlene. Yes, those songs give me a lump in my throat. I’m so glad the post brought back memories for you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Love this! Thank you for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Barbara says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. What educator wants is what you have achieved with these two lovely young people. Congratulations, you are clearly a wonderful caring teacher.

  6. Barbara says:

    If I have posted my comment twice I apologise: This brought a tear to my eyes. You have achieved what every educator wants with these two lovely young people.

  7. Norah says:

    This is a lovely story, Jennie. It is wonderful to make those lasting connections with students. They change our lives as much as we change theirs.

  8. A wonderful example of how important those early years are in shaping who we become. Lovely story, Jennie. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Dan Antion says:

    It’s very satisfying when early lessons are remembered and revisited.

  10. frenchc1955 says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful example of teaching at its best!

  11. How could I not be smiling from ear to ear reading this?

    When I was in high school I took part in a program for students who wanted to be teachers. I spent a good portion of my day teaching little ones. That was 25 years ago and I still remember so many of those little ones and their stories too. This was a nice reminder Jennie. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you for sharing your memories. It’s nice when a post can bring that to someone. And many thanks for your kind words!

      • ok Jennie I’m going to go a little further and risk blabbering….
        About 12 years after I graduated I found out that one of my High School teachers had started a website all about my hometown and the highschool I went to. He did an interview with two boys Kevin and Randy. They were star hockey players at this point.
        I wrote to the teacher and told him that I knew those two boys when they were little and even though I know they are now the age I was when I helped teach them in nursery school… and that they would always be those two cuties who made me laugh every day.
        He passed that on to them and they actually remembered me. He sent back an email to let me know and that they got a kick out of my words but to let me know that they were no longer cute little boys…they were hot hockey studs!
        I laughed so hard at that. The best part was learning that they had grown up to be funny, secure and confident young men. I still smile thinking about that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. โค all these stories of great students growing into wonderful adults!

  13. theburningheart says:

    Nothing like a good teacher to inspire a children to achieve great things in life, even a small thing can have profound influence on a child, my first meaningful teacher was my father, he just handled me a book to read after I learnt how to read at five, and he said: “Read this.” It was an adventure book about a pirate who met a woman and fall in love with her, and fought for her, about a 120 pages, no pictures, but I was hook, read the book in a day, next day my father was surprised when I handled him the book and said: “Give me the continuation of this book please, I want to know how things end.” I have never stop reading since. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jennie says:

      What a wonderful story about your father. Yes, a parent is a child’s first teacher. Combine that with a love of literature and that’s perfect. Many thanks!

  14. What a wonderful story.. Music connects so many hearts.. and those first strings of music played within your classroom continue to vibrate all of these years later..
    How proud you must be..
    And I know I have a lot to thank one of my English Teachers for.. For helping me learn to love Books..
    What a gift you have..
    โค Sue xx

  15. Ooops first I pressed the follow button on the bottom right as I scrolled down the screen and it unfollowed you… Just so you know as you see my follow pop up again..
    And I had thought I left a message here but its disappeared.. lol.. So will try again.

  16. roberthorvat says:

    Indeed, music and singing are a universal pathway to the heart! You are very passionate about your vocation. Keep up the great work Jennie.

  17. Wonderful post! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ’œ Jackie@KWH

  18. papasmuse says:

    This is just beautiful. My wife and I have done our best, but it’s the teachers our son has had which have made such a different in his life. You folks don’t get the respect which you so rightly deserve. Thank you so much for what you do! Though you haven’t taught our son, your “voice” and words sound very familiar. We are so very grateful for folks like you.

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